Non-profit buys land to protect access to Zion Narrows trail

Posted at 10:04 PM, Jun 18, 2013

ZION NATIONAL PARK – The main entrance to the Zion Narrows trail of Zion National Park is now permanently protected from development after an easement was purchased by the non-profit group Trust for Public Land.

Zion Narrows is a 17-mile trail that attracts people from all over the world. Park numbers show roughly 4,000 people hike the trail annually.

While one end is located in the national park, the top of the trail is only accessible through a private property, known as the Chamberlain Ranch. Park directors said hikers have been able to cross through the land without problem for years, but that assurance was never a done deal.

“There is a landowner that I know of that was concerned about people going through his area,” said Zion National Park Superintendent Jock Whitworth. “It was never blocked or closed, but it easily could be.”

The easement ensures it will always be open to the public. Trust for Public Land Project Manager Paul Maynard said it’s a deal they’ve been working on for close to three years and one that’s garnered national attention through efforts of famed blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer.

“The Narrows is easily one of the best, if not the best, hike I’ve ever been on,” said Weihenmayer in a news release. “It is an amazingly unique and dramatic environment, changing with every turn and different with every season. It was such a privilege to be part of this project to help more people get to experience it. Now that a blind guy has braved it, there are no excuses.”

The easement cost the trust $1.41 million. Funds were secured through the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, the state of Utah, the New Venture Fund, and the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation Non-Motorized Trail Matching Fund Program.

“Our ability to purchase this conservation easement means the public will have permanent access through the Chamberlain Ranch property to other federal land and then leading inside the national park,” Maynard said.

Maynard said their goal is to help keep land open to the public, and this easement is one way of ensuring hikers will be able to experience the Narrows for years to come.